Hummingbird hawkmoth

The smell of success

How well do you smell? No, we're not talking about your cheesy socks after games class but how animals use their nose to survive. Find out more about nature’s noses.

Pong producers

Ladybirds secrete a yellow, foul-smelling liquid to deter predators. If you pick one up, it might squirt some on to your hands! (But don’t worry, it washes off and isn't harmful.)

Ladybird on leaf

Nose-twitchers

A rabbit’s sense of smell is so good they can smell food that is underground. Rabbits move their noses up and down to help detect scent: called ‘nose blinking’.

Young rabbit Oryctolagus cunniculus, Conwy RSPB reserve
Rabbit

Prickly customers

Smell is a hedgehog’s primary sense. They walk with their noses in the air to catch whiffs of what’s around them.

Hedgehog

Smell you later

Foxes use scent to mark their territories and warn away rivals. You may have smelled it too – it’s a bit like cat wee (and not very nice).

Fox

Long-distance love

Other creatures use scent to find a mate. Male moths can smell a female from six miles away!

Oak eggar moth

Night's perfume

Flowers emit a sweet smell to attract pollinators. Some flowers smell more strongly in the evening to attract insects like moths, which come out at dusk.

Have you got a honeysuckle in your garden? Give it a sniff in the daytime, then again before you go to bed. Do you notice a difference?

Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, close up
Honeysuckle

Only human

While smell is the least-evolved of our senses, humans can actually distinguish up to 10,000 different smells. It also helps us taste: try eating something with your eyes close and your nose held – can you guess what it is?

Did you know?

The part of the brain which decodes smells is also closely associated with memory, which is why a smell can make you think of a holiday or a place.

Girl sniffing gorse flowers